Category Archives: vintage

Vintage Sound Effects

You may have heard of the recent work by Craig Smith, digitising and sharing a 27GB collection of vintage sound effects. The sounds form three collections, and I’ve included details & links at the end of this post.

The sound that drew the most initial attention from the collection was the original recording that the Wilhelm scream was selected from. It is fascinating to hear the context & direction which created such a sound. More info at freesound here – have a listen:

But I’d like to draw attention to another iconic sound in the collection.

I’ve always been a huge fan of submarine movies, and years ago collected up every submarine film I could find. From 1943 We Dive at Dawn to 2018 Hunter Killer, including Das Boot, Hunt for Red October, Run Silent Run Deep, Ice Station Zebra, Crimson Tide, U571…

The sounds in such films are fascinating but there is one sound that I love above all else: the sonar ping!
So I was overjoyed to discover amongst all these libraries, a source recording of sonar pings and the selected take.

The source recording is here at Freesound and the selected take is here

What an evocative sound! Its also interesting to think about why the sonar ping is so interesting. Apart from the weird tonality, when we hear it in the context of a film the sonar is often used in a critical moment eg when the enemy is close. And it is also usually spatialised and reveberated, to convey that sense of underwater space.

Have you found any favourite classic sounds in the collection? Please share a link in the comments if so!

Here is more info on Craig Smiths excellent work, and links to explore more at Freesound.

“The Gold and Red Libraries (Gold effects start with “G”, Red with “R”)) consist of high-quality, first generation copies of original nitrate optical sound effects from the 1930s & ’40s created for Hollywood studios. They were collected by a prominent sound editor who worked in the industry for 44 years. The fragile optical elements were donated to USC, and transferred to tape by USC Cinema students in the early 1970s.

I have digitized them for preservation, but they have not been restored. You may want to use some noise reduction. Or you may embrace the noise of history.

Read more about the Gold Library
Read more about the Red Library

The Sunset Editorial (SSE) Library was also donated to USC around 1990. It includes classic effects from the 1930s into the ’80s. These effects are from 35mm magnetic film. They were often several generations removed from the originals, and not as clean, so some careful restoration was done to make them more useful. SSE effects start with “S”

Read more about the Sunset Editorial Library